Public support for legalizing marijuana use increased from 25% in 1995 to 60% in 2016, rising in lockstep with support for same-sex marriage. Between November 2012 and November 2016, voters in eight states passed ballot initiatives to legalize marijuana sales for nonmedical purposes—covering one-fifth of the US population. These changes are unprecedented but are not independent of the changes in medical marijuana laws that have occurred over the past 20 years. This article suggests five ways in which the passage and implementation of medical marijuana laws smoothed the transition to nonmedical legalization in the United States: () They demonstrated the efficacy of using voter initiatives to change marijuana supply laws, () enabled the psychological changes needed to destabilize the “war on drugs” policy stasis, () generated an evidence base that could be used to downplay concerns about nonmedical legalization, () created a visible and active marijuana industry, and () revealed that the federal government would allow state and local jurisdictions to generate tax revenue from marijuana.


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